NHL playoff picture: Anaheim chasing the Western Conference dream

Jeff Gross

The Anaheim Ducks pulled to within five points of Chicago with a win on Sunday, yet do they have a chance of catching Chicago for the top spot in the West?

Only a handful of games on the slate on Sunday and there wasn't much movement in the Eastern Conference playoff race as a result. The Washington Capitals managed to maintain their slim lead in the lackluster Southeast Division with a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, while the New Jersey Devils somehow stayed alive with a shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres despite winning just twice in the past ten games. Can't forget that the Pittsburgh Penguins clinched a postseason spot, so at least that concern is out of the way.

In the West, the Detroit Red Wings freefall continues as they slipped to No. 8 in the standings with a shutout loss to the Blues. The Nashville Predators likely saw their playoff hopes completely diminish with Sunday's loss to Chicago, while the Dallas Stars somehow find themselves alive after two big road division wins in Anaheim and San Jose.

Let's take a look at the current standings.

Eastern Conference

Currently in Playoff Position:

1. Pittsburgh Penguins, 58 points (39 games played)

2. Montreal Canadiens, 55 points (38 GP)

3. Washington Capitals, 42 points (39 GP)

4. Boston Bruins, 52 points (37 GP)

5. Toronto Maple Leafs, 46 points (38 GP)

6. Ottawa Senators, 44 points (38 GP)

7. New York Rangers, 42 points (38 GP)

8. New York Islanders, 42 points (39 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. New Jersey Devils, 40 points (39 GP)

10. Winnipeg Jets, 40 points (40 GP)

11. Buffalo Sabres, 38 points (39 GP)

Western Conference:

Currently in Playoff Position:

1. Chicago Blackhawks, 62 points (38 GP)

2. Anaheim Ducks, 57 points (39 GP)

3. Vancouver Canucks, 48 points (38 GP)

4. Los Angeles Kings, 48 points (39 GP)

5. San Jose Sharks, 47 points (38 GP)

6. Minnesota Wild, 46 points (38 GP)

7. St. Louis Blues, 44 points (37 GP)

8. Detroit Red Wings, 43 points (39 GP)

On the Bubble:

9. Phoenix Coyotes, 40 points (38 GP)

10. Dallas Stars, 39 points (38 GP)

11. Edmonton Oilers, 39 points (38 GP)

12. Columbus Blue Jackets, 39 points (39 GP)

Here are some of tonight's games that will directly impact playoff positioning.

Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins - 7 p.m. ET

The Bruins can continue their hopeful climb higher up the Eastern standings with a win tonight over Carolina. Ironically, catching up to the Montreal Canadiens (not possible tonight) would mean a leapfrog over the No. 3 spot seeing as how the Capitals sit as divisional leaders with just 42 points on the season.

New York Rangers at Toronto Maple Leafs - 7 p.m. ET

Did you hear that the Toronto Maple Leafs could make the playoffs this season? With a four-point lead over the No. 8 Islanders -- and the Rangers -- the Leafs could build some very important ground with a big home win at home on Monday, where Toronto is 10-7-2 this season.

Phoenix Coyotes at Vancouver Canucks - 10 p.m. ET

The Coyotes have won three straight games and are far from down-and-out in the postseason race; a win tonight would pull Phoenix into a points tie with Detroit -- although the Red Wings still maintain the tie-breaker. Vancouver likely won't catch Anaheim or Chicago for the No. 1 or No. 2 spot in the West, although pulling out of of the pack in the middle of the postseason race might be prudent.

Edmonton Oilers at Anaheim Ducks - 10 p.m. ET

The Oilers are still chasing the postseason dream, while the Anaheim Ducks have a dream of catching the Blackhawks for the top spot in the West. Five points back with nine games remaining is a tough task to overcome, however, especially given that Anaheim is just 4-5-1 in their past ten games.

Calgary at Colorado...

...I'm just kidding.

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